Show Search Results Show Browse

Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

Hide Quotations Hide Etymology

Abbreviations Cite this entry

About this entry:
First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

HOWE, n., adj.1 Also how; hoowe; hough, howch, houh. [hʌu]

I. n. 1. A hollow or low-lying piece of ground, one of the hollows of an indented or undulating surface or outline. Freq. found in phr. heicht(s) and howe(s), heights and howes, hill(s) and dale(s), ups and downs, fig. moods, tantrums, quirks of character (m.Lth.1 1957). See also Heich, IV. Dim. howie (Abd. 1872 J. G. Michie Deeside Tales 173); deriv. ¶howen (Per. 1857 J. Stewart Sketches 90). Gen.(exc. I.)Sc., but obsol. in w. and sm.Sc. Also fig. and attrib.Sc. 1703 W. Fraser Annandale Family Bk. (1894) II. 216:
With some hights and hoowes of a batlment.
Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 165:
On scroggy Braes shall Akes and Ashes grow, And bonny Gardens clead the brecken How.
Abd. 1768 A. Ross Works (S.T.S.) 143:
I'll gar my ain Tammie gae down to the how, An' cut me a rock of a widdershines grow.
Ayr. 1786 Burns To J. Smith ix.:
An' teach the lanely heights an' howes My rustic sang.
Gall. 1821 Scots Mag. (April) 352:
Their succar notes soocht awa alang the how o' the glens.
Dmf. 1910 J. Corrie Glencairn 146:
There's never a heich but there's a howe.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae Clyde and Tweed 103:
When some soul slips quaitely through daith's howe.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 15:
Hei was awanteen threh eis weel-leikeet Aibbey doon i the howe.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood i.:
I keep the road, for I'm feared o' yon dark howes.
Bnff. 1934 J. M. Caie Kindly North 45:
It's here for me the rivers rin Throu' hills an' howes, wi' memories thrang.
m.Sc. 1939 James Barke The Land of the Leal (1987) 3:
He strode the heights and howes of the Rhinns dominating the earth as he dominated man and beast, ...
m.Lth.1 1957:
Nane o' yer heichts an howes here! You'd better steady up.

Derivs. (1) howie, adj., having many hollows; (2) howfu', n., a valleyful.(1) Sc.(E) 1935 W. Soutar Poems in Scots 15:
Cuckoo, cuckoo; I stude stane still; And saftly spak the howie hill: Cuckoo, cuckoo.
(2) Abd. 1884 Trans. Banffshire Field Club 27:
There's howfu's o't, There's hillfu's o't.

2. A stretch of country of basin formation, a wide plain bounded by hills, a vale (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Also dim. howie. Gen. in place-names, e.g. Howe o' the Mearns, — the Merse.Fif. 1710 R. Sibbald Fife & Knr. 149:
The next part of Fyfe that falls under our Observation is the plain of Edin, called the How of Fyfe.
Kcd. 1795 Stat. Acc.1 XVIII. 609:
[Marykirk parish] placed at the south extremity of an extensive plain, generally known by the How, or hollow lands, of the Mearns.
Abd. 1819 P. Buchan Annals Peterhead 65:
About a mile westward of the town is the celebrated How of Buchan, either from being the lowest part of that district, or from a very striking peculiarity, that on stepping aside but a few yards from the high road . . . you see nothing before you, or above, but a gentle rising and the firmament.
Bwk. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 II. 364:
Clay forms the discriminating character of the lands in the “How of the Merse.”
e.Lth. 1885 J. Lumsden Rhymes 69:
Whar Auld Garvie bursts its broken way Doun Snawdon's lanely Howe astray.
Abd. 1893 G. G. Green Kidnappers viii.:
The whole extensive “Howe o' the Garioch” — the meal girnal of Aberdeen — lies before him, some twenty miles in extent.
Ags. 1915 V. Jacob Songs of Angus 3:
While the weepies fade on the knowes at the river's mouth In the Howe o' the Mearns?
ne.Sc. 1952 John R. Allan North-East Lowlands of Scotland (1974) 21:
Why do so many people persist on those bare uplands, those remote unlovely howes?
m.Sc. 1986 Colin Mackay The Song of the Forest 29:
They thought he was going to water his mount, for the roan wandered by the burnside, and over the howe of the bright water-grass it dallied.

3. A depression, or hollow in gen.; a hollow space, a cavity, the lowest point of an arc; phrs. howe o' the fit, sole of the foot (Lnk. 1957), — neck, nape of the neck (ne.Sc., Fif. 1957). Hence wi' one's lugs in the howe o' one's neck, crestfallen, downcast, abashed. Cf. hingin-luggit, id., s.v. Hing, v., 9. (11).Slk. 1822 Hogg Tales (1874) 654:
Letting the sheep come a' stringing in lang raws, and rairing and bleating, into the how o' the water that gate.
Sc. 1828 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) II. 59:
The howes o' what was ance it[skull]s een.
Abd. 1865 G. Macdonald Alec Forbes i.:
Never a word that man says, wi' the croon o' 's heid i' the how o' 's neck, 'll rise to beir witness o' his ministrations.
Mry. 1873 J. Brown Round Table Club 143:
She [a ship] rises up the brae afore her, an' syne her aifter pairt sinks doon into the howe.
Sc. 1879 P. H. Waddell Isaiah xxxvii. 25:
Bot I toom'd wi' the howe o' my fit a' the trochs frae the craig.
e.Lth. 1885 J. Lumsden Rhymes 5:
Up i' the howe o' the April sky, A' the day the laverocks sing tae Sam.
Kcb. 1897 A. J. Armstrong Robbie Rankine 14:
The chin in the howe o' the han's.
Abd. 1905 C. Horne Forgue 199:
He turned and went back wi' his lugs in the howe o' his neck.
Sc. 1922 P. Macgillivray Bog-Myrtle 49:
The howes i' the roads they'll fill.
Abd. 1933 J. H. Smythe Blethers 52:
His cheeks gaed clappin' in, An' left the howes mair depth nor breeth.
Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 50:
Bi noo, at wirk, Norman stuck tae Henry like chuddy tae the howe o a buit.

4. Curling: the smooth stretch of ice down the centre of the rink along which the stone travels from the delivery line to the tee (sm.Sc. 1957). Phr. to gie a stane howe, to send up a stone on a curving course (Id.).Sc. 1858 Royal Caled. Curling Club Annual 247:
You've been my friend at mony a spiel, Aft helped me “up the Howe.”
Edb. 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff 159:
By turning his little finger “out” instead of “in,” Sandy's stone made its passage down the “howe.”

5. The middle, deepest or most intense part of a period of time, a season, etc., the dead; the declining portion (of day or year). Phrs.: ‡howe o' the day, the period just before dusk (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.); how(e) (o' the) nicht, midnight, or the period between 12 and 3 a.m. (Rxb. 1825 Jam., ‡1923 Watson W.-B.; Abd., Kcd., Lnk. 1957); howe o' (the) winter, midwinter, November to January (Fif., Rxb. 1825 Jam.; Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.; m.Lth. 1957); howe o' the year, id. (Sc. 1825 Jam.; Ags. 1957).Slk. 1818 Hogg B. of Bodsbeck i.:
Ye ken fu' weel, gudeman, ye courtit me i' the howe o' the night yoursel.
Ayr. 1822 H. Ainslie Pilgrimage 197:
It was only in the dead howe o' winter, that we could rin owre a bit boatfu' o' Irish saut.
Sc. a.1834 Sc. Song (Whitelaw 1843) 433:
Through the howe o' the year we wad fen unco weel.
Per. 1887 R. Ford Glentoddy 56:
An' he cam' to the town in the howe o' the nicht.
Sc. 1928 J. G. Horne Lan'wart Loon 17:
An' a' your lane, i' the howe o' the nicht, You'll swarf awa' or dee wi' fricht.

6. Fig. in pl.: a mood of depression, the dumps (Cld. 1825 Jam.; m.Lth. 1957).Edb. a.1730 A. Pennecuik Poems (1787) 13:
I took them a' for worry cows; Sair did my heart fa' in the hows.
Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 63:
I'm i' the hows, To die an' be laid i the till, Indeed's nae mows.
Fif. 1798 R. Flockhart Sketch of Times 13:
And out of fondness, claw'd their pows, That they so soon was from the hows To be uplifted and set high.
m.Sc. 1917 O. Douglas The Setons xix.:
I am different every day — some days on the heights, some days in the howes.

7. Fig.: reduction, diminution (Abd. 1825 Jam.).

8. The hull of a boat (Abd. 1911; Rs. 1919 T.S.D.C. III.); a boat with neither mast nor sail up (Mry.1 1925); also phr. under howe (Kcd., Fif. 1919 T.S.D.C. III.; Kcd. 1957), ppl.adj. howed (Kcd. 1919 T.S.D.C. III.), = adj., 6.

II. adj. 1. Hollow, deep-set, sunken, sagging (Sc. 1710 T. Ruddiman Gl. to Douglas Aeneis, 1808 Jam.; Ork. 1920 J. Firth Reminisc. 152). Gen.Sc.; of the body: shrunken, wasted. Also used adv.Ayr. 1790 J. Fisher Poems 72:
His back an' wame had nearhan' met He grew sae how.
s.Sc. 1793 T. Scott Poems 321:
Ye cowr and howk sae howe, Till art can scarce gar can'les lowe.
Slk. 1807 Hogg Poems (1874) 63:
An' there was a language in his howe e'e, That was stronger than a tongue could frame.
Edb. 1822 R. Wilson Poems 31:
Ae day, a horse gaun to the dogs, Wi' lang howe back an' hingin' lugs.
Dmf. 1830 R. Brown Mem. Curl. Mab. 81:
Let Lads dam the water in ilka how trough, For cheerin' frost comes wi' December.
Peb. 1836 J. Affleck Poet. Wks. 61:
One favour I will humbly crave, For now I'm auld and houh.
Rnf. 1846 W. Finlay Poems 162:
He may pray till he's howe in the e'en.
e.Lth. 1885 J. Lumsden Rhymes 91:
The haill howe lift I scan in vain.
Ags. 1988 Raymond Vettese The Richt Noise 37:
I mean the richt
dauntin tattie-bogle
wi the fairmer's filshens
flafft i the wun,
a neep for a heid,
an' deep howe een,
besom-shank airms
an' a kist o strae.

2. Of things or persons: empty of food, hungry, famished (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 81; Uls.3 1929; Ork. 1957). Also used adv.Sc. 1737 Ramsay T.-T. Misc. (1876) II. 130:
This is the how and hungry hour, When the best cures for grief Are cog-fous of the lythy kail.
Fif. 1827 W. Tennant Papistry Storm'd 216:
Stech their how hungry stammachs fou.
Bnff. 1844 T. Anderson Poems 64:
An' up the way to get some tea — Our pechans howe ware wearin'.
Mry. 1923 Banffshire Jnl. (25 Sept.) 3:
For the day wis a day o' feastin' an' drinkin', An' stammacks were howe.
Rxb. 1925 E. C. Smith Mang Howes 13:
In A gaed ti fill ma empy keite, for my certies! A was howe!

3. Deep, intense, innermost (Ags. 1957). Cf. I. 5.Sc. 1820 Scots Mag. (April) 349:
It was in the howe dead o' the nicht, a close mist, and nothing to disturb the silence of the solitary moorland.
Dmf. 1822 A. Cunningham Tales II. 309:
I have seen them sit in the howe heart of winter, laying schemes for gripping and guiding wealth.
Bwk. 1862 J. G. Smith Poems 102:
Till the auld folk dwined awa I' the howe time o' the year.
Gsw. 1868 J. Young Poems & Lyrics 28:
My only toil that's ocht severe Haps in the howe en' o' the year.

4. Of health or spirits: dejected, depressed (Abd. 1825 Jam.), poorly (Sc. 1808 Jam.). Gen. in phrs. how eneuch, hough enough, very indifferently, “so-so” (Bnff. 1866 Gregor D. Bnff. 81). Also used adv.; howe howe, id. Cf. I. 6.Sc. 1721 Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 246:
Now when thou tells how I was bred, But hough enough to a mean Trade.
Per. 1802 S. Kerr Poems 16:
Guid mornin', friend. How's a' the day? E'en hougheneugh. Just the auld way.
m.Lth.1 1957:
I saw Sandy the day but he was gey howe howe.

5. Of sound, the voice, etc.: hollow, deep, echoing, guttural (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Ork. 1957). Also used adv.Ayr. 1787 Burns Dr Hornbook ix.:
It spake right howe: “My name is Death, But be na fley'd.”
Wgt. 1804 R. Couper Poems I. 247:
And round the hill, and down the glen, Howe murmurs, eerie, ring.
Sc. 1812 Popular Opinions 71:
His voice was howe, in basso key.
Lnk. 1820 Scots Mag. (May) 422:
An' the wilcat yow't through its dowie vowts, Sae gowstie, howch, and dim.
Ork. 1880 Dennison Sketch-Bk. 50:
The selkie mither gae a groan sae dismal an' how.
Ags. 1887 Arbroath Guide (5 March) 4:
Like the 'oo o' the wind my voice rang howe.
Sc. 1891 R. Ford Thistledown 97:
Wha ga'e yon howe hoast?

Hence ¶(1) howely, hollowly (w.Sc. 1929 R. Crawford Quiet Fields 32); (2) how-speaking, speaking in a deep, hollow voice (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 276).

6. Of a boat: with sails furled and mast down (e.Sc. 1911–57). Cf. n., 8.

7. Combs.: (1) how(e) backit, of a horse: saddle-backed; also of persons: round-shouldered, having a curving back (Mry.1 1925; m. and s.Sc. 1957); (2) howe-doun, down in a hollow (Bnff. 1957); (3) how-doup, n., the medlar, Mespilus germanica (Lth. 1825 Jam.). Cf. hose-doup, id., s.v. Hose, n., 3. (1); (4) how-dumb-dead, howdumdeidhow-dumb-deid, the depth, the darkest point (Ayr. 1825 Jam.). Cf. I. 5.; (5) how hole, a hollow, depression, nape (of the neck); flat, low-lying country; †(6) how house, a basement dwelling, one below street level; (7) howe-howm, see Howm; (8) how(e) ice, in curling: the ice down the centre of the rink between the delivery line and the tee, the track made along it by the passage of the stones (Abd., Per., Ayr., Gall. 1957). Phr. to be howe ice, of a shot: to travel straight down the centre of the rink; (9) how-plate, a deep plate, e.g. for holding soup (wm.Sc. 1957); (10) howe pot, the bottomless pit, perdition; (11) how road, a track sunk below ground level (see quot.); †(12) how-wecht, a circular tray made of sheep-skin stretched on a hoop and used to carry grain, etc. in a mill or barn (Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 276). See Wecht, id.(1) Ayr. 1786 Burns Auld Mare i.:
Tho' thou's howe-backet, now, an' knaggie.
Sc. 1835 Wilson's Tales of the Borders I. 268:
As some heartless wretch wad sell the noble animal that had carried him when a callant, to a cadger, because it had grown howe-backit, and lost its speed o' foot.
Ayr. 1879 J. White Jottings 279:
Ye'll ne'er be howbackit In carrying yer friens.
wm.Sc. 1950 M. Hamilton Bull's Penny xviii.:
A poor howe-backed creature that hirpled about on two sticks.
(4) Sc. 1820 Blackwood's Mag. (Nov.) 202:
That's no a guid bed for a sick body, in the how-dumb-dead o' a caul' har'st night.
s.Sc. 1837 Wilson's Tales of the Borders IV. 290:
It is the “how-dum-dead” of winter.
Sc. 1925 Hugh MacDiarmid Complete Poems Vol. 1. (1978) 27:
I' the how-dumb-deid o' the cauld hairst nicht
The warl' like an eemis stane
wags i' the lift
ne.Sc. 1980 Lilianne Grant Rich Echo of Many Voices 51:
She's gotten a bairn
In the caul' howdumdeid;
He's there in the strae
Whaur the nowt tak' their feed ...
em.Sc. 1999 James Robertson The Day O Judgement 7:
In the how-dumb-deid, when aw the warld's
Fawn ower, lourd wi sleep,
The trumpet's sudden skirl will steir
Mankind wi'ts muckle threip.
(5) Sc. 1743 Scots Mag. (Nov.) 524:
It's a' scabbit i' the how hole o' the neck o'd.
Bwk. 1856 G. Henderson Pop. Rhymes 34:
In the howe hole o' the Merse A' the folk are bannock fed.
(6) Sc. a.1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 54:
She took me . . . down a dark stair to ane o' the how houses, beneath the yird.
(8) Dmf. 1778 J. Wilson in Burnbrae Papers MS.:
The shining pool where Drumbuie and his heroic band stood on their fitties and came down how ice to a hair breadth.
Lnk. 1805 G. McIndoe Poems 55:
Be straight how-ice, and dinna ride, Nor sell your stane by playing wide.
Lnl. 1881 H. Shanks Musings 355:
Safe o'er the hog-score, on howe ice it lies.
Dmf. 1904 J. Gillespie Humours 96:
Tak' yer wull o't, ma mannie: fair aboard and min' the how ice!
(9) Sc. 1840 G. Webster Ingliston xxxv.:
A how-plate and a plain plate aneath't.
(10) Dmf. 1834 Carlyle Letters (Norton) II. 249:
Toryism or Radicalism, it seems to me all things are going to the howe pot.
(11) Sc. 1827 C. I. Johnstone Eliz. de Bruce I. vii.:
It was one of the many how roads which abounded in Scotland at that period, formed on the very reverse of Macadam's plan . . . In winter those steep hollow paths or trenches resembled more the channel of a stream than a regular road.

III. v. To make hollow; fig.: to reduce, drain, diminish in number or quantity (Abd. 1825 Jam.). Cf. n., 7.

[O.Sc. how, n., a hole, from 1375, a low-lying area, depression, from 1531; holl, c.1470, how, 1513, the hull or hold of a vessel; adj., hollow, from c.1450, of the voice from 1530, howe pot, bottomless pit, 1680, phr. hough enough, in a humble condition, from a.1689. Vocalised variant of O.Sc. holl, n. and adj., Mid.Eng. holl(e), O.E. hol, n., adj., a hole, hollow. See P.L.D. § 78.2.]

You may wish to vary the format shown below depending on the citation style used.

"Howe n., adj.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jul 2024 <>



Hide Advanced Search

Browse SND: